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Chapter 11: The Criminals Chase the Police August 22, 2007

Posted by Ashleigh in The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton.

1. Inspector Ratcliffe tells Syme and the other detectives, “There is a great deal to be said for death; but if anyone has any preference for the other alternative, I strongly advise him to walk after me.” Were you able to suspend your disbelief in order to believe that the mass of people getting off the train were chasing the five men and bent on killing them? Who do you think the men in this mob are? Where did Sunday find them?

2. It seems that Chesterton is starting to reveal why the subtitle of this book is A Nightmare. In this chapter we read:

This wood of witchery, in which men’s faces turned black and white by turns, in which their figures first swelled into sunlight and then faded into formless night, this mere chaos of chiaroscuro (after the clear daylight outside), seemed to Syme a perfect symbol of the world in which he had been moving for three days, this world where men took off their beards and their spectacles and their noses, and turned into other people. The tragic self-confidence which he had felt when he believed that the Marquis was a devil had strangely disappeared now that he knew that the Marquis was a friend. He almost felt inclined to ask after all these bewilderments what was a friend and an enemy. Was there anything that was apart from what it seemed?

This seems to sum up how in dreams nothing seems as it is, but is always changing and taking on different forms. Also, I think this speaks to the importance of discernment in our lives. Of being able to recognize things as they truly are. What are your thoughts on this?

3. What are your thoughts on the clear line Chesterton seems to draw between peasants and those with financial means when it comes to good and evil? Do you think he’s trying to make a specific statement on humanity in general and how money can affect people? Or do you think this ties into the politics and state of the world at the time he wrote it?



1. bethany3boys - August 23, 2007

Ashleigh, I like your point on discernment and the importance of it. This book seems to keep showing us that things are not as they seem or as we think. The twist and turns the thought that things are for sure one way and then a few lines later end up being something totally different. Of course we are experiencing all things through Symes perspective and are taking on this ride as he sees it.

I have thoughts on your last question but the baby is crying….gotta run.

2. Michelle - August 24, 2007

1. I suspended belief regarding this book a long time ago so it didn’t seem strange to me that they now had an angry mob following them.

2. BTW, my book doesn’t have A Nightmare as a subtitle. I wonder if that was added by certain publishers later or was an original part of the title Chesterton intended.

3. I’m going to re-read this section and get back to you on it…

3. Ashleigh - August 24, 2007

Michelle, I’m with you on that! I had a hard time suspending my disbelief in this book as a whole and towards the end felt like it just fell apart.

That’s interesting that your copy doesn’t have the subtitle. I’ll see if I can find out whether Chesterton had that as part of the original title or if it was added later.

Bethany and Michelle, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on question 3. I don’t know what I think he’s trying to say in this area, but it did seem like Chesterton was getting at something.

4. Danielle - August 28, 2007

1. I didn’t have a hard time suspending my belief in this section either. It does seem like everyone’s bewitched, though. Since the people that previously helped them then turn against them, it seems the mob has a almost supernatural power.

3. I didn’t think Chesterton was making a point about the poor vs. rich in regards to good and evil as much as he was making a political point. It seems the key, in my opinion, comes when he says:

“You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than any one else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have always objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.”

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